Review of Upward, Broken, Always [12k2042]

A Closer Listen (.COM)

OHIO the duo is a tribute to Ohio the state. After Taylor Deupree and Corey Fuller discovered that they shared a state of birth, they sealed their geographical bond by recording a thoughtful cover of Damien Jurado’s “Ohio.” The otherwise (mostly) instrumental album proceeded from there. It’s been a long time, a real long time … out from my window, please hear me, Ohio, your daughter wants to come home.

Deupree and Fuller may have moved away from Ohio, but it’s clear that Ohio hasn’t moved away from them. They slow the track down by adding ticking and other noises, steering the song toward greater intimacy than the popular “filous Remix,” a club version that treated the nostalgia as marks on a dry erase board.  In the middle of OHIO’s version, a short pause allows instruments to stumble across the sonic field like drunken boys in a meadow.

How do we look back on where we’ve been? OHIO does this with art: a photo of the state taken from above, another shot of Deupree’s family barn, a topographical etching on the D-Side of the vinyl. But the album also includes three “ghost tracks,” haunting the end of Sides A-C: subdued, gauze-wrapped versions of the pieces that have preceded them. While short ~ totaling only four minutes ~ these takes serve as a collective metaphor for memory. They remind listeners of what they have just heard, while already the impressions are shifting. Every few tracks, the album tries to recall itself, and does so in a fashion simultaneously accurate and inaccurate, exposing the tricky nature of reminiscence.  While they are less specific (for example, the chimes and mallets of “Apeiros” disappear), these interludes feel more permanent, like feelings or moods instead of diaries and photographs.

Can a person come home, if home has changed? Or is the experience more like stepping into a river? Deupree and Fuller suggest that the home need not be defined by geography.  The thought of Ohio is enough to generate feelings of Ohio, from pastoral comfort to disturbing distortion, all found in the surprising opener. The dynamic contrast of this piece lays open the conflicting narratives that can battle for dominance, in the same way as one can try to reconcile memories of a parent who is both loving and cruel. These are the feelings that Ohio produces in OHIO; the music need not sound like Ohio to be true. This being said, if any piece sounds like Ohio today, it’s probably “Frère (Brother),” with its bird and traffic breakdown. Despite its louder inclusions (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), most people think of the midwestern state as more grass than asphalt ~ once again underlining the importance of impression. We expect titles like “Rows, Barns, Fields” ~ even if we’ve never been to Ohio.  Unlike the opener, this piece alternates between ambience and drone, implying a reality of darkness and light; but in the ghost track, the darkness disappears. Memories are often edited in the same way; one edits out the dissonance, or tells a new story in which the light wins.  In “Crépescule (Twilight),” the drone is reduced to a shimmer. Whatever their experiences, the artists have made peace with the state, and look back with love.  (Richard Allen)

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